Known for years as the Witch City, Salem is redefining itself. Though numerous witch-related attractions and shops still draw tourists, there’s much more to the city. But first, a bit on its bewitched past …
The witchcraft hysteria emerged from the trials of 1692, when several Salem-area girls fell ill and accused some of the townspeople of casting spells on them. More than 150 men and women were charged with practicing witchcraft, a crime punishable by death. After the trials later that year, 19 people were hanged and one man was crushed to death.
Though the witch trials might have built Salem’s infamy, it’d be a mistake to ignore the town’s rich maritime and creative traditions, which played integral roles in the country’s evolution. Frigates out of Salem opened the Far East trade routes and generated the wealth that created America’s first millionaires. Among its native talents are writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, the intellectual Peabody sisters, navigator Nathaniel Bowditch, and architect Samuel McIntire. This creative spirit is today celebrated in Salem’s internationally recognized museums, waterfront shops and restaurants, galleries, and wide common.
To learn more on the area, stop by the Regional Visitor’s Center. Innovatively designed in the Old Salem Armory, the center has exhibits, a 27-minute film, maps, and a gift shop.